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CCAR President Cites Benefits of Reform-conservative Cooperation

The growing cooperation between the Reform and Conservative movements was credited here last night with advancing the cause of religious pluralism in the practice of Judaism in Israel and in world Zionist institutions. In remarks at the opening of the 89th annual convention of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), Rabbi Ely E. Pilchik, president of the Reform rabbinical group, also addressed himself to the long-standing “Synagogue-Federation conflict” which, he said, has not been resolved. He warned of “rampant inflation,” characterizing it as “the curse and danger of the free Western world” and deplored the lack of “nerve” on the part of the industrialized West in meeting the energy crisis.

The speech, before more than 500 delegates representing about 1300 Reform rabbis in congregations throughout the U.S. and Canada gathered at the Harbour Castle Hilton Hotel, stressed the need to continue to expand Reform-Conservative cooperation and noted the achievements that cooperation has yielded.

Referring to Orthodox efforts to amend Israel’s Law of Return by adding the phrase “al pi Halacha” (according to jewish religious law) to the legal definition of a converted Jew, Pilchik said, “We succeeded in lobbying the various political entities in the land (Israel) and forestalling this regressive revision.

“We succeeded,” he said, “notwithstanding the efforts of the Orthodox within and without the government, to split the Conservative movement away from us.” He praised Conservative leaders Rabbi Stanley Rabinowitz and Rabbi Wolfe Kelman who “stood fast with us …though pressed hard by colleagues in their own Rabbinical Assembly and, alas, at considerable sacrifice.”

He said Conservative-Reform cooperation “proved instrumental in the historic victory at the 29th World Zionist Congress” in Jerusalem last February when the Reform and Conservative movements marching “shoulder to shoulder…shattered the Orthodox monolith after 80 years of World Zionist Congress history.” Pilchik cited two resolutions adopted by the Congress, one affirming equal standing and equal treatment for every religious movement within its ranks and the other calling on the State of Israel to fully implement the principle of guaranteed religious rights for all its citizens and equality of government aid to all religious movements within Judaism.”

CITES CONFLICT WITH FEDERATIONS

Pilchik said he and other officers of the CCAR “agonized over the lack of progress in resolving our Synagogue-Federation conflict.” He charged that “the Federations press hander and deeper” to encroach on community activities by synagogues in an attempt to relegate them to “something of an insignificant ‘shtibel’ performing ancient life-cycle rituals.” Pilchik said, “We must insist. We must persist. Each of us in his or her community must with the cooperation of other rabbis endeavor to develop significant areas of cooperation with the Federation without yielding…without the synagogue there can be no Jewish life.”

The CCAR president referred to the trip to Egypt he took with other rabbis under the auspices of the Synagogue Council of America to open up possible channels of cultural and interfaith communication with Islam, particularly in Egypt. He urged the CCAR “to follow through on this opening move toward sitting down with Muslim intellectuals and liberal religious leaders dedicated to the Koran.”

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